Catholic Church in Australia Timeline

On Australia Day we usually recall our past and the events that help shape our nation.  The Church has of course also had a major impact on the forming of Australia. Take a fascinating trip into the past and follow an abridged timeline to see how the Church has helped shape our culture.

Follow the history of the Church from first settlement. Click on links in orange to see more from original sources.  Timeline courtesy of the Australian Catholic Historical Society.

1788

Jan 23 First Fleet enters Sydney Cove;
Jan 25 La Perouse enters Botany Bay; Abbé Mongez, his chaplain, celebrates the first Mass within Australian territory; death and burial of Fr Receveur;
3 Feb 1788 First Anglican service

1800

Fr James Harold Fr James Dixon arrive as convicts

1801

Third convict priest, Fr Peter O’Neil, arrives and is sent to Norfolk Island

1803

Governor King proclaims toleration of Catholics; Dixon says first public Mass and wedding

1810

Fr Harold departs, leaving Australia without priests;

1817

Fr Jeremiah O’Flynn arrives – without government credentials

1820

Fr Philip Conolly and Fr John Therry arrive as official chaplains; Macquarie allows them to marry Catholics only;
meeting held to raise money for a chapel

1821

First Catholic school at Parramatta;
Governor Macquarie lays foundation stone for St Mary’s Church, on site of later cathedral.

1828

First census of NSW shows 69% of the white population Protestant and 30% Catholic.

1835

Bishop Polding arrives in Sydney as bishop; first resident clergy appointed to districts.

1838

St Mary’s Seminary opened at Bishop’s House;
First priests appointed at Bathurst

1839

First Catholic newspaper Australasian Chronicle founded;
First mass in Melbourne

1842

Polding named Archbishop of Sydney, Anglican bishop protests;
Mary MacKillop baptised in Melbourne

1854

First Australian conference of St Vincent de Paul Society and orphanage established in Melbourne;

1866

Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods begin the Sisters of St Joseph

1869

Bishops’ pastoral letter declares white men have “too often been apostles of Satan” in dealing with aboriginals;
Temporary St Mary’s Cathedral burns down again

1880

Public Instruction Act (NSW) removes state aid for church schools;
Ned Kelly given the last sacraments before execution;

1885

First Plenary Council of Australian bishops;
Moran appointed the first Australian cardinal;

1888

Cardinal Moran speaks against anti-Chinese immigration legislation;

1891

Foundation stone laid of first Melkite church in Australia;

1896

Cardinal Moran speaks at Bathurst in favour of Federation

1905

Australian Catechism inaugurated;
Third Australian Plenary Council;

1909

Death of Mary MacKillop, with her order having 1000 sisters;
Haberfield church the first in the world to be named after newly beatified Joan of Arc;

1914

World War I declared;
Ben Chifley marries in a Presbyterian church, incurring automatic excommunication

1916

Catholic Women’s Social Guild founded in Melbourne;
Mannix a leader of the successful “No” case in the first conscription referendum

1928

Crowds of half a million watch the procession ending the International Eucharistic Congress in Sydney;

1931

Catholic radio station 2SM opened in Sydney;

1934

Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne (newsreel)

1936-7

Tension between Australian cricket captain Don Bradman and Catholic members of the team

1938

Aboriginal order of nuns founded in the Kimberley

1940

First annual Catholic bishops’ social justice statement;

1942

Bathurst Island mission warns Darwin of approaching bombers;
University Catholic Federation of Australia formed

1944

Catholic Social Studies Movement formed and B.A. Santamaria reports;

1946

Gilroy appointed first Australian-born Cardinal;

1947

Calwell’s agreement with International Refugee Organization begins large-scale immigration of Eastern European Displaced Persons

1948

Anti-communist priest Dr Paddy Ryan debates communism before a crowd of 30,000 in Sydney;
Mgr Leonard establishes Catholic Youth Organisation

1951

Justin O’Brien’s The Virgin Enthroned wins the first Blake Prize for religious art;
Australian-Italian bilateral assisted migration treaty begins large-scale Italian immigration, mostly Catholic

1953

150,000 attend Fr Peyton’s Rosary Crusade in Melbourne;
Dr John Billings approached to develop a natural family planning method

1955

Labor Party split pits majority of Labor Party against B.A. Santamaria‘s “Movement”; predominantly Catholic Democratic Labor Party formed;
Germaine Greer completes education at Star of the Sea Gardenvale

1957

Confraternity of Christian Doctrine begun to provide religious instruction in state schools;

1962

Second Vatican Council opens in Rome;

1964

Mass in English;
First direct government grants to Catholic schools;

1965

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference set up

1971

Mass For You At Home begins, to become longest-running show on commercial 

1975

Patrick Dodson ordained, first Aboriginal priest;

1979

Australian acceptance of boat people from Vietnam begins large-scale Asian immigration, including Catholics

1986

First census in which Catholics were the largest denomination in Australia;

 

This time line is a summary from the Australian Catholic Historical Society website.  Visit it here to see the complete time line

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